Monday, July 1, 2013

God is Light: A profound convergence of Biblical and Qur'anic thought


I have been 'sitting on' this post for a few months now, being a bit reticent to publish it; but recent events have now compelled me to do so. I suspect that it will be a bit controversial for a number of my readers, but I sincerely hope that those who take the time to read it, will do so with as much objectivity as they can muster. Here goes...

In the Bible we read: "God is light, and in him is no darkness at all." (1 John 1:5b - ASV)

And from the Qur'an: "God is the light of the heavens and the earth." (Surah 24:35a - Maulana Wahiduddin Khan)

This attribution of the term "light"—in both the Bible and the Qur'an—to the One, Supreme, True God, is a reference to His very being/essence. Note the following scholarly references which support this important motif (I have selected only a few from a list of dozens):

"God is light." John formulates short statements that describe God's nature. In other places he says, "God is spirit" (John 4:24) and "God is love" (1 John 4:16). Here, in verse 5, he reveals God's essence in a short statement of three words: "God is light." (Simon J. Kistemaker, James and I-III John, 1986, p. 242.)

The very being of God is absolute light. (R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of I and II Epistles of Peter, the three Epistles of John and the Epistle of Jude, 1966, p. 384.)

God is light, i.e., God's nature is light = absolute holiness and truth (comp. iv. 8; Gospel of John iv. 24). (J.E. Huther, Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Handbook to the General Epistles of James, Peter, John and Jude, 1980 reprint, pp. 480, 481.)

In the inanimate world, light is the most common and the most theologically important image of God. John virtually defines God when he says, "God is light; in him there is no darkness at all" (1 John 1:5). (John M. Frame, The Doctrine f God, 2002, p. 376.)

The physical light is but a reflection of the true Light in the world of Reality, and that true Light is Allah. (Abdullah Ysuf Ali, The Meaning of the Holy Qur'an, 1993, p. 876.)

Al-Nur—Lightis the visible one by whom everything is made visible, for what is visible in itself and makes other things visible is called light'. In the measure that existence is opposed to non-existence, what is visible cannot but be linked to existence, for no darkness is darker than non-existence. What is free from the darkness of non-existence, and even from the possibility of non-existence, who draws everything from the darkness of non-existence to the manifestation of existence, is worthy of being named light. Existence is a light streaming to all things from the light of His essence, for He is the light of the heavens and the earth. And as there is not an atom of the light of the sun which does not by itself lead one to the existence of the sun which illuminates it, so there is not a single atom from the existents of the heavens and the earth and what lies between them which does not lead one by the very possibility of its existence to the necessary existence who brings them into being. (Al-Ghazali, The Ninety-Nine Beautiful Names of God, trans. David B. Burrell and Naih Daher, 1992, 1997, p. 145.)

"God is the light of the Heavens and of the Earth . . ." (XXIV, 35). For, to those who have understood the true meaning, light is being, and darkness is non-being. The Light, which is God, therefore is the constitutive being of the Heavens and of the Earth. (Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Hamid Dabashi, Seyyed Vali Reza Nasr, Shi'ism - Doctrines, Thought, and Spirituality, 1988, p, 197.)

Having established that "the light" is a reference to the very being of God, I would now like to explore the issue of etiology—i.e. causation, origination—more specifically, the first causation by/from God.

In Christian thought, it is God's Logos/Son/Wisdom/Word which was the 'first causation' from God. Before time, God begets (i.e. causes) His Logos/Son/Wisdom/Word, from His being/essence/Light (Proverbs 8:22-30; John 5:26; Rev. 3:14). God's Logos/Son/Wisdom/Word is 'Light from Light'.

In Islamic thought, we have a virtual parallel concept concerning the 'first causation' from God. Note the following Hadith:

The hadith that is related by Jābir in the Musannaf of al-Hāfiz Abū Bakr ‘Abd al-Razzāq b. Hammām al-San’ānī and considered sound by recent scholarship indicates that the very first of God’s creation was the light of the Prophet. According to the hadith, Jābir b, ‘Abd Allāh asked the Prophet, ‘What is the first thing that God created?’ To this, the Prophet replied, ‘O Jābir! The first thing God, the Sublime and Exalted, created was the light of your Prophet from His light, and that light remained in the midst of His power for as long as He wished, and there was not at that time a Tablet or a Pen or a Paradise or a Fire or an angel or a heaven or an earth. (Hamza Yusaf, The Creed of Imam al-Tahāwī, 2007, p. 117.)

Before time (or anything else), God brings forth (i.e. causes/creates) "the light of the Prophet...from His light". This concept is known as the 'Muhammadan Light' (an-Nur al-Muhammadiyyah), also called the 'Muhammadan Reality' (al-haqiqah al-Muhammadiyyah). Note the following from Cyril Glassé:

Much emphasis is placed on this idea by the Shī'ites, who find this light eminently manifest in their Imāms, but the term is also encountered, mainly in the context of mysticism, among the Sunnīs, as a doctrine not unlike that of the logos. (The Concise Encyclopedia of Islam, 1989, p. 304 - bold emphasis mine.)

This "Muhammadan Light", or Light of Muhammad, is mentioned in Qur'an:

People of the Book! Our Messenger has come to make clear to you much of what you have hidden of the Scriptures and to forgive you much. A light has now come to you from God and a clear Book, whereby God guides to the ways of peace all who seek His good pleasure, bringing them from darkness to the light, by His will, and guiding them to a straight path. (Surah 5:15 - Maulana Wahiduddin Khan)

For more information on the "Muhammadan Light", or Light of Muhammad, see the following online articles:





Now, I suspect that many will notice that on the Christian side of the issue of God's 'first causation', an emphasis is placed on begetting, while on the Muslim side, it is creating. At first glance, it would appear that we have two different concepts being presented; however, one must keep in mind that in the Bible and early Church, the Hebrew and Greek terms used for beget and create were often interchangeable. As such, one needs look beyond the verbal action (causation)—both sides acknowledge this first cause—to the ontological aspects of this action/cause. The ontology of God's first cause is this: the One, Supreme, Uncaused God from His Essence/Light begets/creates another being, and this, before the creation of anything else, including time.

Another difference is that for Christians, it is Jesus Christ's pre-existent being/nature that is presented, while for Muslims, it is Muhammad's. But, once again, the divide may not be as wide as most would perceive it—especially from a Muslim perspective. In the Qur'an we read:

The Messenger believes in what has been sent down to him from his Lord, and [so do] believers. They all believe in God and His angels, His scriptures, and His messengers. They say, We do not differentiate between any of His messengers. We hear and obey. Grant us Your forgiveness, Lord, to You we shall all return! (Surah 2.284 - Maulana Wahiduddin Khan)

It sure seems to me that if one is going to be faithful to the above concept, one needs to affirm that Muhammad's pre-existent 'light' is Jesus' pre-existent 'light'.

There is much more to share on this topic, but I want to limit the size of this opening post. With that said, I shall be looking forward to the contributions of others...

Grace and peace,

David

P.S. I am heading out of town tomorrow for a 4 day vacation. Don't know if I will be able to access my blog, so do not be surprised if I am unable to respond to any comments before Saturday.

74 comments:

Rory said...

Hey Dave,

I am wondering if similar convergences of theme would be uncommon between say, the Bible and the Book of Mormon, or the Book of Mormon and the Qu'ran? Nobody is wrong about everything. But are they compatible regarding all of what they say? I guess that is what determines what church, synagogue, mosque, or temple you attend?

Have good vaca.

Rory

David Waltz said...

Hi Rory,

Forgive my somewhat tardy response, but had no time for the internet after my return from my vacation until now.

In your July 1st comment, you posted:

==I am wondering if similar convergences of theme would be uncommon between say, the Bible and the Book of Mormon, or the Book of Mormon and the Qu'ran?==

Me: Good question. I would say that the BoM has about as much convergence with the Bible as the NT has with the OT; as for the BoM and the Qur'an, not nearly as much.

==Nobody is wrong about everything.==

Me: Indeed, even a broken clock 'gets it right' twice a day.

==But are they compatible regarding all of what they say? I guess that is what determines what church, synagogue, mosque, or temple you attend?==

Me: When comparing the Qur'an with the Bible I think one must constantly keep in mind the relationship that the emerging Christian Church had with the OT and Judaism—the vast majority of Jews were reading/understanding much of the OT differently that the Christians—as such, compatibility is in a very real sense subjective.


Grace and peace,

David

Ken said...

being a bit reticent to publish it;


I can see why you would write that; after I read it;

wow . . .

you seemed to have taken another step downward in false religion, to be quite frank with you, David.

Your openness to Bahai-ism means inherently (within Bahai'ism itself and its understanding of itself) that you would have to see Islam as an in-between stage between Christianity and Bahai'ism.

It is very hard to see how anyone who claims to believe the Bible and in Jesus Christ could ever consider Muhammad as having been some sort of pre-existent light similar to the logos of John 1:1-5, 1:14. This is very heretical and blasphemous.


but recent events have now compelled me to do so.

What "recent events" are those that compelled you take this step?

I suspect that it will be a bit controversial for a number of my readers,

no kidding. Not just a "bit", but massively so; and very grievous and serious spiritually; and sad.

Ken said...

Basically, isn't the Bab (the Gate or Door) the forerunner (like John the Baptist) to Bahai'allah, who "opened the gate" into the unseen, and manifested it and isn't he Bahai'allah supposed to be the manifestation of the Mehdi (the twelfth Imam in Twelver Shi'ite Islam) ?

徐马可 said...

Ken,

I think David's position is that the Muslim scholars are mistaken in their rejection of our Christian notion of Son of God, or some what an light of light or God of God idea.

My understanding of David is trying to show forth that in the original Muslim understanding, there was indeed such a concept of light from light, howbeit, they took that to be Muhammad.

David Waltz said...

Hello Ken,

Yesterday, you wrote:

==you seemed to have taken another step downward in false religion, to be quite frank with you, David.==

Me: Ken, if you are going to level such charges at me, I think you should back them up. You should begin by demonstrating that I have been embracing a false religion, and then move on to the, "another step downward" (i.e. exactly what is entailed therein).

==It is very hard to see how anyone who claims to believe the Bible and in Jesus Christ could ever consider Muhammad as having been some sort of pre-existent light similar to the logos of John 1:1-5, 1:14. This is very heretical and blasphemous.==

Me: If you had read my opening post carefully, you would discern that I did not say that I personally accepted the teaching; rather, I was pointing to a tradition (and a very old one) within in Islam that I believe is quite consistent with the Qur'an.

Further, "as who claims to believe the Bible" (and sola scriptura), I am convinced that you hold to a number of beliefs that cannot be found in the Bible, but rather, they come via tradition.

== What "recent events" are those that compelled you take this step?==

First, the following recent thread:

GREEN BAGGINS - The Insider Movement and the Word-Concept Fallacy

That lead me to a number of other sites that discussed the "heated" debate at the PCA General Assembly.

Second, my finished reading of Miroslav Volf's, Allah - A Christian Response.

Third, viewing the "Dr." James White's "Wish List" at Amazon.com, which is accessed via his "Ministry Resource List" link at his AOMIN webpage:

LINK

The list includes a combat fighting knife ($75.95) cycling shoes ($499.95), and other clothing items of more the $350.00.

That a supposed minister of the Gospel would ask his contributors to buy him such items is quite unbelievable, and makes me wonder about the spiritual condition of the one making the requests, and those who contribute to such a cause. It really got me thinking about the real motive/s behind such a ministry that vigorously attacks so many fellow Christians, including SBC pastors.

Anyway, as I said in my opening post, I have had the material ready to post for a number of months now, and felt the time had come to publish it.


Grace and peace,

David

David Waltz said...

Hi Mark,

So good to see you back. Yesterday, you posted:

==I think David's position is that the Muslim scholars are mistaken in their rejection of our Christian notion of Son of God, or some what an light of light or God of God idea.==

Me: Exactly. It is refreshing to find that someone understood this.

==My understanding of David is trying to show forth that in the original Muslim understanding, there was indeed such a concept of light from light, howbeit, they took that to be Muhammad.==

Me: Once again, spot-on. The hadith/tradition that I cited is very old, and as I said, sure seems to be confirmed by the Qur'an itself. I cannot help but think that this tradition was neglected on the part of most Muslims apologists after the early debates with their Christian counterparts (whose Augustinian construct of the Trinity blurred the Biblical and early Church's teaching on the subject).

What are your thoughts on this ???

Grace and peace,

David

Justin said...

Hello David,

That Greenbaggins link looks interesting. I'll check it out.

Also, it looks like James White actually has two wish lists on Amazon: one listed as personal and one listed as ministry. The items you mentioned were listed under his personal list.

Ken said...

David,
It honestly seems like you personally were making the case that Muhammad was a pre-existant light, like the pre-incarnate Word/logos / eternal Son of God. Your statement here seems to indicate you personally believe that: (along with the rest of the article)

"It sure seems to me that if one is going to be faithful to the above concept, one needs to affirm that Muhammad's pre-existent 'light' is Jesus' pre-existent 'light'."

Being open to Bahai'ism means by nature that you have a completely false idea of what Christianity is now. Someone who follows Christ of the NT would not be open to something that claims to be a further revelation of the same God, just farther down in history. You don't fully tell everything, and it seems you are trying to build your case for accepting Islam as the next step after Christianity and Bahai'ism after that - it just honestly seems that way to me - I could be wrong; I cannot read your heart; but your constant criticism of orthodox Christianity, the Trinity, the eternal Sonship of Christ, etc. seems to be part of this process you are going through.

If I am wrong; make it clearer. The way you write is negative toward orthodox traditional Christian belief. (even Trinitarian Roman Catholicism - the first four councils, Augustine, etc.)

I mean nothing personal nor am I trying to be deliberately insulting. Help me understand you better if you think I am wrong.

Ken said...

I had to re-read Mark's statements above and your comments. Yours are unclear and foggy, but if what you mean is what Mark wrote, then now I think I understand what you mean; but it is not understandable without Mark's statement.

Ken said...

I appreciate the links to the Green Baggins discussion - I want to read that more in depth as I have time.


徐马可 said...

Ken,

A quick comment about "writing against the orthodox Christianity", if we acknowledge the truth of Jesus in the gospel and in it alone, the gospel will also be a critical tool to examine/question/or even refute the "traditional orthodox Christianity".

Whatever your philosophical position maybe, the saying of Jesus and Paul all confirm one fundamental truth that is One God is the one who Jesus called Father, not the one who the church called Trinity.

One thing personal, I have been a defender of the original Westminster Confession and the strictest Reformed faith for many years, I defend the solemn league, defend psalms and Sabbath and establishment principle. I read tons of orthodox puritans writers. Now, I have to admit, through David's blog here, I have learned from him more than I have ever learned from the puritans or other reformed writers. Put it more clear, I found most writing in this blog very biblical and honest and mind renewing.

Ken, it is difficult for one to overturn his position held for his whole life, but sometimes, to be a real biblical Christians, it demands a somewhat faithfulness to the actual saying of Jesus to his non-Trinitarian (speaking in the current usage) creed in Mark 12, and his affirmation of someone he called the Only true God (if Jesus speaks in human language) and to the service to the one person Jesus said alone should be worshipped. (again if Jesus speaks in human language).

Thanks,

Mark

Ken said...

Mark,
Thanks for all that explanation. It is helpful indeed; as it is really hard to figure out where David is coming from, given his openness to the Bahai religion. (Sorry David)

IMO, mere openness to that inherently means that one has a massive different understanding of whatever one is believing right now.

Your issue (along with Drake and Ryan, who have commented here in the past and may be reading this) seems to be with the questions of the doctrine of the Trinity, the Monarchy of the Father (but even that could be understood in several ways), and how we are allowed to express worship to "the one true God", meaning the Father alone, but also maintaining that Jesus is the eternal Son of God/ the word/logos from all eternity, and I suppose you guys also agree that the Holy Spirit is by nature a person and has the same divine nature/substance as the Son and the Father, and "proceeds from the Father" ( John 15:26).

Personally, because of passages that also give worship to Jesus the eternal Son (Daniel 7, Hebrews 1, Revelation 5, John 20:28; Matthew 14:33, Colossians 1:15-20, probably others), I just don't see the problem with Athanasius and Augustine and Calvin and the doctrine of the Trinity that you guys seem to.

But I also am not a strict follower of the Westminster Confession of Faith (I am not Presbyterian, but I respect them greatly & in most areas agree) in areas such as infant baptism ( I am a Baptist by conviction); the regulative principle of worship has some problems with applying it in an extreme way. The OT Psalms have many instruments and I see no problem with writing new songs and using modern instruments as long as the lyrics are doctrinally sound and performed tastefully. The WCF is wrong to dogmatically call the Pope of Rome as "the anti-Christ" of 2 Thess. 2. We should try to set aside Sunday as much as possible for church, worship, meditation, rest from work, etc. but there are too many examples of legalism and extremism of application of the principle too harshly, like the Pharisees of Jesus day.

Anyway,

You wrote:

I defend the solemn league, defend psalms and Sabbath and establishment principle.

What does the "solemn league" mean?

by "defend psalms"; do you mean defending the use of Psalms only in worship and no instruments and application of imprecatory Psalms for today?

"Sabbath" - I assume you mean a strict Sabbatarian position of no work at all on Sundays and having church all day or at least 2 worship services, morning and evening. Right?

What is "the establishment principle"?

Ken said...

David,
I read over your article again, and I could not find where you clearly stated that you do not hold this view personally. It sure seems like you were agreeing with it, especially this quote, seems like you agree and approve of it, as applied to Muhammad and that would also indicate maybe how could justify it developing in Shi'ite Islam, then to Bahai'ism:

Much emphasis is placed on this idea by the Shī'ites, who find this light eminently manifest in their Imāms, but the term is also encountered, mainly in the context of mysticism, among the Sunnīs, as a doctrine not unlike that of the logos. (The Concise Encyclopedia of Islam, 1989, p. 304 - bold emphasis mine.)

David Waltz said...

Hi Justin,

Thanks much for stopping by, and taking the time to comment. You wrote:

==That Greenbaggins link looks interesting. I'll check it out.==

Me: I found it to be quite interesting. Look for the link to a review of Dr. Miroslav Volf's, Allah - A Christian Response—I think it was in one of the earlier comments—I thought it was objective and thorough.

==Also, it looks like James White actually has two wish lists on Amazon: one listed as personal and one listed as ministry. The items you mentioned were listed under his personal list.==

Me: Correct. The "Help with Ministry Resources"/"Ministry Resource List" link at the AOMIN website takes you to the Amazon site, "Ministry Resources List", which in turn has links to two "Wish Lists".


Grace and peace,

David

David Waltz said...

Hello again Ken,

Earlier today, you posted:

==It honestly seems like you personally were making the case that Muhammad was a pre-existant light, like the pre-incarnate Word/logos / eternal Son of God. Your statement here seems to indicate you personally believe that: (along with the rest of the article)

"It sure seems to me that if one is going to be faithful to the above concept, one needs to affirm that Muhammad's pre-existent 'light' is Jesus' pre-existent 'light'."

Me: Wow Ken. I honestly don't know how you missed the context of the above statement. Just prior, I wrote: "especially from a Muslim perspective", and then quoted a passage from the Qur'an. Let's try again:

"It sure seems to me that if one [i.e. a Muslim who believes that the Qur'an is the Word of God and acknowledges the hadith pertaining to the Muhammadan Light] is going to be faithful to the above concept [i.e. that there is no distinction between God's Messangers], one needs to affirm that Muhammad's pre-existent 'light' is Jesus' pre-existent 'light'."

==Someone who follows Christ of the NT would not be open to something that claims to be a further revelation of the same God, just farther down in history.==

Me: We have already discussed this at length in another thread; a thread in which other Christians (charismatic) totally disagreed with you. Your claim that there cannot be any further revelation from God after the NT cannot be supported by the NT itself, and is based solely on tradition.

==I cannot read your heart; but your constant criticism of orthodox Christianity, the Trinity, the eternal Sonship of Christ, etc. seems to be part of this process you are going through==

Me: First, you are not an "orthodox" Christian; you reject way too many of the historic Ecumenical councils to be included in that paradigm. Second, anyone who has read my recent threads on the Monarchy of God the Father and the Trinity would know that I have not rejected the Trinity (just certain forms of it); and most certainly, have not rejected "the eternal Sonship of Christ".

==If I am wrong; make it clearer. The way you write is negative toward orthodox traditional Christian belief. (even Trinitarian Roman Catholicism - the first four councils, Augustine, etc.)==

Me: When it comes to "the first four councils" I am much more "orthodox" than you; and I would argue, more "orthodox" than Augustine and those who have followed his developments on the Trinity.

==I mean nothing personal nor am I trying to be deliberately insulting. Help me understand you better if you think I am wrong.==

Me: I knew that Ken; but thanks for making it clear for everyone else.


God bless,

David

Steve said...

David,

Just out of curiousity, who do you believe has the power to define orthodoxy, and on what authority?

pax,
Steve

Ken said...

Regarding "orthodox", obviously I mean the way historic Protestantism defines it, with a small o, "right doctrine/ straight doctrine, agreeing with the first four Ecumenical councils and early creeds, including the Nicean, N-Constantinople, Apostles, Chalcedonian, & Athanasian Creed.

Are you agreeing with the other councils after that on Mary, and icons, etc. ? Perpetual virginity, icons, (5th-7th Councils) and then all the western Ecumenical councils? (Council of Constance, 4th Lateran and Transubstantiation, Trent) ?

David Waltz said...

Hi Steve and Ken,

Historically speaking, the term "orthodox" and/or "orthodoxy" is defined (IMHO) by a general consensus of Christendom at large—especially through the consensus of ordained/recognized bishops. (That is but one of the reasons why I object to Protestants using the terms.) Another sense for the terms comes via ones acceptance of the Ecumenical councils, which became a bit 'mudded' (so to speak) after the split of 1054.

Now, with that said, I think that there is a very real sense in which "orthodoxy" has 'changed' through the centuries; and this, of course, via doctrinal development. This brings up the questions of apostasy, authority, continuity, et al.—questions which I personally have not been to put together into a cohesive whole.


Grace and peace,

David

P.S. I think the following quote from Dr. Lane sums up the somewhat the inconsistent use of the terms "orthodox" and "orthodoxy by Protestants:

The Reformers unequivocally rejected the teaching authority of the Roman Catholic Church. This left open the question of who should interpret Scripture. The Reformation was not a struggle for the right of private judgement. The Reformers feared private judgement almost as much as did the Catholics and were not slow to attack it in its Anabaptist manifestation. The Reformation principle was not private judgement but the perspicuity of the Scriptures. Scripture was ‘sui ipsius interpres’ and the simple principle of interpreting individual passages by the whole was to lead to unanimity in understanding. This came close to creating anew the infallible church…It was this belief in the clarity of Scripture that made the early disputes between Protestants so fierce. This theory seemed plausible while the majority of Protestants held to Lutheran or Calvinist orthodoxy but the seventeenth century saw the beginning of the erosion of these monopolies. But even in 1530 Casper Schwenckfeld could cynically note that ‘the Papists damn the Lutherans; the Lutherans damn the Zwinglians; the Zwinglians damn the Anabaptists and the Anabaptists damn all others.’ By the end of the seventeenth century many others saw that it was not possible on the basis of Scripture alone to build up a detailed orthodoxy commanding general assent. (A.N.S. Lane, “Scripture, Tradition and Church: An Historical Survey”, Vox Evangelica, Volume IX – 1975, pp. 44, 45 – bold emphasis mine.)

Steve said...

Consensus doesn't necessarily entail truth so neither would orthodoxy. Nor does consensus entail authority. You mentioned ordination which matters to me but I don't understand why it matters to you. I'm not trying to be a pest...I'm just looking for coherence in your epistemology. (I'm on my phone so trying to be brief)

David Waltz said...

Hi Steve,

Thanks much for your continued interest and contributions; you wrote:

==Consensus doesn't necessarily entail truth so neither would orthodoxy. Nor does consensus entail authority.==

Me: Agreed.

==You mentioned ordination which matters to me but I don't understand why it matters to you. I'm not trying to be a pest...I'm just looking for coherence in your epistemology. (I'm on my phone so trying to be brief)==

Me: I look to the writings of the early Church Fathers (and the historians of the same period, many of which were themselves CFs) as 'guides' (so to speak) for interpreting the Bible. The issue/s of whether or not the monarchial bishop —and ordination—had apostolic warrant is settled (to a very high degree) for me by those early 'guides'.


Grace and peace,

David

Rory said...

Dave,

Leaving aside the question of which books should be included, I think we would agree that private interpretation of the various Christian canons can never lead to the unity that would be a fitting testimony to God's truth.

Catholics and Orthodox would be satisfied with looking to the Fathers. But the theme of this thread centers on the Koran. Is the Koran different from the Christian canons? Can private interpretation of the Koran lead to the unity that would be a fitting testimony to God's truth? Hardly anybody understands the Koran as you seem to be suggesting, in a way that also extols one of the various Christian canons. What community of Koranic disciples could currently qualify as the authoritative interpreters pf the Koran?

A couple more questions:

1) Do you think the Koran helps us to decide the Christian canon?

2) Who among the Church Fathers to whom you look for understanding of one of the Christian canons, would have been willing to expand any of those canons to include the Koran?

4) Since it seems like you propose a similar relation between the Koran and the New Testament, as you do the New Testament and the Old Testament, it seems like you should lack confidence in a Church Father's perspective of the New Testament, just as they lacked confidence in rabbinical understandings of the Old. That IS a question. Heh. How can one who accepts the Koran also accept Patristic interpretations of the New Testament? It seems like we would be better served to see how the New Testament should be understood in light of "Latter-day Revelation", the Koran, especially as it is interpreted according to the "one true church" (sorry for mixing Christian terminology into Muslim ideas)

Regards,

Rory

Rory said...

Hey again Dave.

To clarify, I used quotation marks for "one true church" at the end of my last post to refer to that religious community which would be singularly qualified to interpret at least the Old Testament, New Testament, and the Koran. That is, unless you are proposing straight forward private revelation.

I also understand that further revelation would probably result in another "church" that would be required to interpret anything subsequent to the Koran. Do you think we may rest easy that the Koran is the latest Scripture and concentrate on disciples of the Koran, in our current search, or is it likely that a Koranic group that was once God's mouthpiece has already been succeeded by another?

A lot of questions I know. This is what I was wondering about as I pondered Steve's question about authority. If there is inspired post-patristic Scripture, uninspired patristic perspectives made without the light of revelation now available, would seem to make the best patristic insights to be excusably lacking due to the disadvantages which have been remedied by revelation which came too late for them.

Okay...your turn. Whenever or if ever you can. Thanks.

Your friend,

Rory

徐马可 said...

David,

Really wanted to hear a consistent view of authority and Christian unity, I was raised in a Roman Catholic family from childhood, had faith in the Bible after college and went to the reformed camp in my early 20's till now so I may say I have some good 20 plus years of religious experience.

Never had one day passed by without the lurking question pounding at my heart that there is literally no unity among Christians, no unity in charity, in friendship, nor unity in interpretation. I spent most of my time since my early 20's studying biblical commentary and interpretation, even among the reformed camp, I was astonished by the variety of opinions and the technical impossibility to reach any unity of love and friendship.

I agree with you it appears Bible alone cannot solve problem, it is not that the Bible cannot, but we just cannot, I see everybody cheat here or there. Some are objective in certain area, but very subjective in other areas, but in the end of day, everybody cheats, to certain degree, both the reformed and Catholic alike.

After the discovery of the apostasy from the patristic understanding and biblical understanding of God, it is like putting salt on the wound, because it appears the church authority view is not working either.

Very frustrated by the current situation, I am still a Protestant reformed historist, so I attributed the whole situation to apostasy of the Roman church, and the subsequent Reformed to Baptist alike trying to reform the apostasy but still some how in the dark shadow of Rome.

But such a view is dangerous, it is somewhat saying no one is a believer same me and some other disfranchised people or bloggers.

Steve said...

the One, Supreme, Uncaused God from His Essence/Light begets/creates another being, and this, before the creation of anything else, including time.
David, are you suggesting here that the Son is a being? If so, then what necessarily follows is either polytheism or subordinationism. I still haven't seen an argument that avoids this.

Rory said...

Depending on what you mean, I am a Catholic subordinationist while denying that the Son is a creature. The Son obeys the Father because of a subordinate relationship, not because of inferior human ontology. St. Hilary of Poitiers offers similar reasons in explaining that passage in John 14(?) where Christ says that the Father is greater. Of course, we can always fall back on the Son's humanity, but is there more? It would seem like this is where Dave has been going, and rightly so in my view with his arguments about the One God. There is no need as Catholics to hide from a well-guarded and precise form of subordinationism.

The Koran seems like a separate issue to me and I can't see my way to accommodate Dave's proposals on that. But for the reasons I have suggested, I doubt that Dave will be concerned if someone should label him "subordinationist".

Regards,

Rory

Steve said...

If X believes in 2 beings each of which X considers to be God, then X is either a subordinationist or a polytheist.
X is not a subordinationist.
Therefore, X is a polytheist.
This is formally valid as far as I can tell, so either the premises must be false, or simply don't apply to Dave. If that's the case, then please clarify.

Also,would you consider the Son to be of the created order, or uncreated order in Colossians 1:16?

Justin said...

Steve,

Your argument is working off of later philosophical development (See Canon I and II of the fourth Lateran council). The early church would not have viewed the position of two beings as polytheism:

http://theologyascience.blogspot.com/2013/07/what-is-tritheism.html

Steve said...

Your argument is working off of later philosophical development
I have no problem with developments, per se.
The early church would not have viewed the position of two beings as polytheism:
If the early church held that there are multiple beings that can be called God, then the early church was polytheist. Incidentally, I believe the early church to be monotheist.

The problem lies, so far as I can tell, in treating the persons of the Trinity as members of a genus, just as we consider ourselves members of a genus. This is to confuse the uncreated order with the created order, the consequences of which lead to insurmountable absurdities. This is where I see development/clarification to be quite fruitful.

Justin said...

"If the early church held that there are multiple beings that can be called God, then the early church was polytheist. "

>> Like I said, different philosophy. The early church believed each person of the Trinity to be a complete ontological package - not a Cerberus of sorts. The idea of one numeric being that is three persons is foreign to the early church. The closest thing was Sabelleanism.

"Incidentally, I believe the early church to be monotheist."

They were. But they also believed it was possible to say there are three fully divine persons that can be called "God," and each possess their own essence, but yet undivided.

Steve said...

No one is denying ontological status to the persons of the Trinity. Just that to have ontological status as a member of the Trinity is not the same thing as to have ontological status as a member of a genus.

Why do you appeal to the early church, anyway? Are they working with different/better data than "later philosopher"?

Justin said...

Steve,

I was replying to your comments directed at David on the 17/18th. David's doctrine of God is taken from the early church, so I was just trying to provide clarification.

Rory said...

Hi Steve.

Steve
If X believes in 2 beings each of which X considers to be God, then X is either a subordinationist or a polytheist.

Rory

That sounds correct, (and helpful) to me. Concise and tight. You are talking about ontological subordinationism. In God, consubstantiality means to have the same existence and there is no room for ontological subordination after that was defined. This is because God's essence is existence, "I am."

Steve
X is not a subordinationist.
Therefore, X is a polytheist.
This is formally valid as far as I can tell, so either the premises must be false, or simply don't apply to Dave. If that's the case, then please clarify.

Rory

Maybe you misunderstood me if I gave the impression that Dave's beliefs somehow transcend or overthrow universal principles. Dave is a creature after all. Heh.

Steve
Also,would you consider the Son to be of the created order, or uncreated order in Colossians 1:16?

Rory
Uncreated. There are no passages of Scripture properly understood that could allow that the eternally begotten Son is a creature.

__________________


So anyway, I'll let Dave say if He believes in multiple beings. But would not that be a strange result for someone who is taking the Koran seriously? Most Muslims accuse us of polytheism!

Thanks for the reply,

Rory

Steve said...

Maybe you misunderstood me if I gave the impression that Dave's beliefs somehow transcend or overthrow universal principles
Sorry, what I meant to convey is that perhaps it is not the case that David believes in 2 beings each of which can be referred to as God, and therefore the argument doesn't apply to him.

So anyway, I'll let Dave say if He believes in multiple beings. But would not that be a strange result for someone who is taking the Koran seriously?
I believe that David has a strong intellectual curiosity that is difficult to satisfy. Whether or not he's taking the Koran seriously, or in what sense he is taking it seriously I cannot say. But you know him far better than I do...

David Waltz said...

Hi Rory, Mark, Steve and Justin,

Just now checking in on the blog after my return from Bremerton (wife had some training she had to attend, so I went with her). A good deal of activity in my absence !!! Have a lot to contribute (and questions to answer), but I am tired from the drive home, so it will have to wait until tomorrow.


God bless,

David

TOm said...

David and all,
Does not Dr. Holmes (in the book you recommended – link below) suggest that the monotheism being discussed here was not embraced in the same way it is today. Here is what I am thinking about The Quest for the Trinity, Stephen R. Holmes pages 45-46:


‘Monotheism’ itself is not a biblical category (the term is first used in 1660 by the Cambridge Platonist Henry More); MacDonald has shown ably how the word has gained a very particular philosophical cast in its history of usage, and how that has affected – perhaps infect – scholarly discussion of Israelite monotheism. His own study of Deuteronomy suggests that an account of ‘monotheis’ which sees it as an intellectual claim concerning metaphysical reality – the recognition of the truth of the proposition that there is only one deity – fails to capture the message or rhetorical force of the biblical text. Rather, such texts as the Shema (Deut. 6:4-9) reflect a repeated call to the difficult task of exclusive loyalty to God alone, and God’s uniqueness is more soteriological than metaphysical. God alone saves the people, and so the people should be loyal to God’s laws and commands.
This is important for my discussion in two ways. First, believe in only one God is here as much or more about fiducia (commitment), as notitia (knowledge) or assensus (intellectual assent). Old Testament monotheism, on this account, is not a carful claim as to the numbers of deities; rather it is an exclusive devotion that must be learned and won, and remains constantly precarious. This perhaps makes it easier to understand how Trinitarian devotion could develop so rapidly after the ascension of Jesus: there was no need to overcome a developed and defended metaphysical conception of deity. Second, MacDonald’s account of Old Testament as ‘monotheizing literature’ would seem to be invited: the text constantly calls its readers towards the difficult and costly task of worshipping God alone. The operative definition of the divine, there, is not metaphysical but doxological: God is the one to whom worship may properly be given.



I think the Biblical and early church concept of monotheism is not the concept present in Augustine and Aquinas. I am unsure how a non-Catholic embraces all the development including the first 4 councils and rejects the authority that the developers claimed to possess. I do think there is much room for one to see in the early church a very different view of Christianity than exists in maybe ANY modern church.
Charity, TOm

徐马可 said...

Tom,

I found your comment very interesting. I noted the "monotheism" of Augustine is precisely that of a "philosophical monotheism", one simple essence with a special dialectical attribute called "person".

I adhere to a notion called "divine council" that in the OT there are actually "thrones" (plural) in the heavenly scene, while Yahweh is the leader of a heavenly assembly of gods (elohim, or the gods Yahweh created)

The OT seems to care less of the existence of other deities, but focused on the commitment of worship to the only God.

Regards,

Mark

David Waltz said...

Hi Rory,

Back on the 16th, you posted:

==Leaving aside the question of which books should be included, I think we would agree that private interpretation of the various Christian canons can never lead to the unity that would be a fitting testimony to God's truth.==

Me: Well, if one looks at the history of the Church, then I think your take is quite accurate.

==Catholics and Orthodox would be satisfied with looking to the Fathers. But the theme of this thread centers on the Koran. Is the Koran different from the Christian canons? Can private interpretation of the Koran lead to the unity that would be a fitting testimony to God's truth? Hardly anybody understands the Koran as you seem to be suggesting, in a way that also extols one of the various Christian canons. What community of Koranic disciples could currently qualify as the authoritative interpreters pf the Koran?==

Me: Good questions. First, I do not think that, "private interpretation of the Koran", will fare any better than the private interpretation of the Bible. Second, as to which, "community of Koranic disciples could currently qualify as the authoritative interpreters pf the Koran", much like the Christian paradigm, it depends on which group/sect you are a member of. For instance, for the Sunnis, it is the Qur'an, Hadith (those accepted by a general consensus amongst the Sunnis) and Sunnah that are 'authoritative', though there are differing schools of Shariah (4 major ones within the Sunni camp). The largest Shia sect, The Twelvers, adds the teachings of the Imams, a lot more hadiths, and has 5 major schools of Shariah. The Ismailis (I think it is the second largest Shia sect) has a living Imam that is their supreme authority. There are also the Sufis, with a number of different orders, each with their own line of authoritative teachers. Add the dozens of smaller sects, and it gets a bit complicated.

==A couple more questions:

1) Do you think the Koran helps us to decide the Christian canon?==

Me: No.

==2) Who among the Church Fathers to whom you look for understanding of one of the Christian canons, would have been willing to expand any of those canons to include the Koran?==

Me: None that I am aware of.

==4) Since it seems like you propose a similar relation between the Koran and the New Testament, as you do the New Testament and the Old Testament, it seems like you should lack confidence in a Church Father's perspective of the New Testament, just as they lacked confidence in rabbinical understandings of the Old. That IS a question. Heh.==

Me: For me, I want to know how the earliest followers of Jesus and His apostles were interpreting what they received. Not wanting of create controversy here, I personally cannot fully discount some sense of oral tradition that was being conveyed through the writings of those earliest followers. Though certainly falling well short of infallibility, I still think there is much value in what the CFs have left us.

==How can one who accepts the Koran also accept Patristic interpretations of the New Testament? It seems like we would be better served to see how the New Testament should be understood in light of "Latter-day Revelation", the Koran, especially as it is interpreted according to the "one true church" (sorry for mixing Christian terminology into Muslim ideas)==

Me: I have a book that defends the view that the vast majority of Jesus' teachings can be found within the Judaism of Jesus day. For those of us who accept the teachings of Jesus, the 'field' (so to speak) has been considerably narrowed concerning certain interpretations of the OT. If one accepts the Qur'an as further revelation from God, then I suspect that the same can be said of Muhammad's day—i.e. that the vast majority of Muhammad's teachings can be found within the Christianity of his day.

More later, the Lord willing...


Grace and peace,

David

David Waltz said...

Hello again Rory,

Later on the 16th, you wrote:

==I also understand that further revelation would probably result in another "church" that would be required to interpret anything subsequent to the Koran. Do you think we may rest easy that the Koran is the latest Scripture and concentrate on disciples of the Koran, in our current search, or is it likely that a Koranic group that was once God's mouthpiece has already been succeeded by another?==

Me: Though I am 'open' to the possibility that the Qur'an is further revelation from the one, true God, I am currently in no position to say that, "yes it is Scripture". With that said, I think that most of the arguments employed by Christian apologists to denigrate the Qur'an are woefully deficient, fairing no better than the Muslim apologists who attempt to discredit the Bible.

==A lot of questions I know. This is what I was wondering about as I pondered Steve's question about authority. If there is inspired post-patristic Scripture, uninspired patristic perspectives made without the light of revelation now available, would seem to make the best patristic insights to be excusably lacking due to the disadvantages which have been remedied by revelation which came too late for them.==

Me: I understand your point; but, the "uninspired patristic perspectives" would still hold value for me even if I came to believe that the Qur'an is indeed Scripture from God. The OT is a part of the Christian canon, and I have gained valuable insights on it from Jewish scholars who have devoted their lives to the OT. IMO, the early CFs provide us with too much value to discard them even if further revelation beyond the NT comes forward.


Grace and peace,

David

David Waltz said...

Hi Mark,

Thanks much for your heartfelt, sincere post on the 17th. So much of what you wrote is part of my own experience and/or understanding. I know that 'the answer' to all our questions and reservations is out there. I am convinced (and committed), that dedication, study, prayer and the grace of God will lead us to what we seek.


God bless,

David

David Waltz said...

Hi Steve,

On the 17th, you posted:

==the One, Supreme, Uncaused God from His Essence/Light begets/creates another being, and this, before the creation of anything else, including time.

David, are you suggesting here that the Son is a being? If so, then what necessarily follows is either polytheism or subordinationism. I still haven't seen an argument that avoids this.==

Me: Subordinationism. All the 'orthodox' CFs (modalists excluded) up to the middle of the 4th century were subordinationists; and this, because I believe the Bible teaches it.


Grace and peace,

David

David Waltz said...

Hello again Steve,

A bit later, you wrote:

== If X believes in 2 beings each of which X considers to be God, then X is either a subordinationist or a polytheist.
X is not a subordinationist.
Therefore, X is a polytheist.
This is formally valid as far as I can tell, so either the premises must be false, or simply don't apply to Dave. If that's the case, then please clarify.==

Me: I think you need to define with great precision what you mean by the terms "God" and "subordinationist" in the above syllogism.

For instance, do the terms 'God', 'divine', and 'divinity' all mean the exact same thing ???


Grace and peace,

David

David Waltz said...

Justin, Rory and Steve,

Very interesting exchanges in my absence. Want to read over your comments again, and then ponder over them before attempting to add my 'two cents'.

Thanks much for your contributions and interest.


Grace and peace,

David

David Waltz said...

Hi Tom,

Really appreciated the quote that you provided from Dr. Holmes' excellent book. I found your ending assessment to be quite interesting.

Could you clarify/expand on what you think is entailed in, "the authority that the developers claimed to possess."


Grace an peace,

David

Steve said...

On my phone again but just wanted to point out that my comments regarding the Trinity are with respect to the immanent Trinity...if it matters.

Steve said...

All the 'orthodox' CFs (modalists excluded) up to the middle of the 4th century were subordinationists; and this, because I believe the Bible teaches it.

Are they orthodox because they agree with your interpretation of the Bible? Does the Bible obviously teach this? How did so many church fathers after the 4th century miss this?

I think you need to define with great precision what you mean by the terms "God" and "subordinationist" in the above syllogism.

God is the name we give that whose nature is maximally perfect such that to exist is to exist necessarily (I believe this is consistent with Islamic thought as well?) To be divine is to have said nature. A subordinationist is one who believes that the Son's nature (with respect to the immanent Trinity) is not coequal with the Father's. At least that's how I'm using the terms here, anyway.

TOm said...

Mark,
I imagine you and I have some similar views on what monotheism is and is not. I think Dr. Holmes suggests that the Old Testament and early New Testament churches held views similar to ours.
My personal concept of the Trinity and the One God has components of Monarchial Monotheism were God the Father is the One God from whom the other persons of the Trinity receive light. And a recognition that there are emergent aspects of divinity/power that exist through the union/love (even indwelling love whatever that is) of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Finally, while I elevate the Son and Holy Spirit based upon their eternal linkage to the Father, lack of rebellion/sin, and their necessary part in our deification; I also believe that we are called into this relationship and can become gods.
Charity, TOm

TOm said...

Deleted a duplicate post!!!

David,
My quote of Dr. Holmes was specifically to call into question the “monotheism” being advocated as a litmus test in this thread. I think the rest of my response will send us much farther afield of your topic than even this (and my response to Mark probably did this too), but ...

I am of the opinion that the folks who participated in the first 4 ecumenical councils, the folks who declared these EC as opposed to local or robber councils, and generally the vast majority of folks we call ECF believed they were speaking/writing about Christianity because they had the authority to do so based upon their ordination (and/or their link to the apostles through a “bishops list”). In addition to this as these folks perfectly (in the eyes of most Christians) defined the Cannon and with great correctness (in the eyes of many Christians) defined doctrines they also defined authority as being ordained in a line of valid bishops tracing back to an apostle.

I think all of us accept some of what they taught explicitly or implicitly. One of the least controversial of the things we all accept is that the 3rd person of the Trinity is the Holy Spirit. The most powerful development of doctrine statement I know in the ECF (and I cannot remember the exact source or quote, but I expect you can) relates to the fact that the Old Testament spoke of one God, the New Testament spoke of Jesus Christ, and the development of the Holy Spirit was left to the Church.

I find that the vast majority of Catholics and Protestants accept much of what was taught during these first four councils as being not only true/correct, but as a litmus test for a version of orthodoxy that is linked strongly if not completely to salvation.

As I see the paths through which many doctrines have traveled toward their current modern manifestation, I am puzzled by how one can embrace the modern manifestation and reject the authority that defined it.

I have great interest in doctrine and I believe it can impact our worship and even our relationship with God and His Church, but I reject the idea that those who believe flawed (here I mean untrue as judged by God, a truth standard that is hard/impossible to define in this world) theological ideas are worshiping the wrong God and therefore are hellbound.

I see many who think only some (almost always their) orthodoxy is salvific. Wrong theology in the “non-negotiable” (another point of debate) doctrines is damning.

Inside the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, there is more room for this emphasis upon orthodoxy. But since these groups reject the idea that God has revealed (through supernatural public revelation that occurred after the Apostles) to them the developments they have made in their theology, I struggle to see how their foundations are not shaky.

Of course, I could also offer many reasons why me and my fellow religionists should consider our foundations shaky. Perhaps I fall into the trap of seeing much more clearly the flaws in the religious foundations of the OTHERS.
Charity, TOm

Rory said...

Hey Tom,

Good seeing you.

According to the Catholic faith, damnation or salvation is not dependent on theology, but on the word you sign your name with, charity. Charity, or supernatural love of God is the antidote to any false beliefs or sinful actions. If you have charity in your soul when you die, it doesn't matter what you believed or what you did, you are going to heaven. It is impossible to know who might have died with charity in their souls.

But theology seems relevant. The problem is how can a Catholic have good hope that someone loves the Catholic God if at the same time they are declaring that the Catholic God is far from adorable? On the contrary, there are many who affirm that the Catholic God is the author of evil.

Nobody is saved by believing. We are saved by loving. But if we believe mistakenly, it can be an impediment to charity. I will say that I have hope for everybody. But I cannot say I have good hope for those who are so confident in their error as to declare that the Catholic God is bad.

Charity!

Rory

David Waltz said...

Hi Steve,

Amazing what you (and a lot of other folk) can do with you phone !!! Yesterday evening, you posted:

==All the 'orthodox' CFs (modalists excluded) up to the middle of the 4th century were subordinationists; and this, because I believe the Bible teaches it.

Are they orthodox because they agree with your interpretation of the Bibl?==

Me: They are 'orthodox' because the two great catholic/orthodox churches (RCC and EO) have deemed them as such.

== Does the Bible obviously teach this?==

Me: I believe that it does, and there are a number of theologians (some reluctantly) who admit that it does.

==How did so many church fathers after the 4th century miss this?==

Me: That is a very good question; one I have been struggling with for quite awhile now. In my posts on the "Monarchy of God the Father", I have pointed to a few possible reasons why.

==I think you need to define with great precision what you mean by the terms "God" and "subordinationist" in the above syllogism.

God is the name we give that whose nature is maximally perfect such that to exist is to exist necessarily (I believe this is consistent with Islamic thought as well?) To be divine is to have said nature.==

Me: I would include the fontal nature of God the Father as one of the attributes of the "maximally perfect nature". That fontal nature means that God the Father owes is being/existence to nothing else—i.e. He is absolute existence—but the Son and the Holy Spirit owe their being/existence to the Father.

==A subordinationist is one who believes that the Son's nature (with respect to the immanent Trinity) is not coequal with the Father's. At least that's how I'm using the terms here, anyway.==

Me: This is where gets a bit complicated; though I believe that the Son and HS are divine—i.e. God from God, Light from Light—they lack the fontal nature of the Father. This belief of mine (and the early Church Fathers) makes me a subordinationist (though certainly NOT in an Arian sense).

Grace and peace,

David

David Waltz said...

Hi Tom,

Thanks much for taking the time to respond to my request. In your clarification/s you wrote:

==I am of the opinion that the folks who participated in the first 4 ecumenical councils, the folks who declared these EC as opposed to local or robber councils, and generally the vast majority of folks we call ECF believed they were speaking/writing about Christianity because they had the authority to do so based upon their ordination (and/or their link to the apostles through a “bishops list”).==

Me: That is pretty close to my view too; but, I would add that during this same period (i.e. 325-451) there were hundreds of ahomoian, homoian, and homoiousion bishops who had received the same ordination, and held their own councils—some of which were considerably larger than any of the first 4 ecumenical councils.

==In addition to this as these folks perfectly (in the eyes of most Christians) defined the Cannon and with great correctness (in the eyes of many Christians) defined doctrines they also defined authority as being ordained in a line of valid bishops tracing back to an apostle.==

Me: Not clear on the above; could you elaborate a bit more ???


Grace and peace,

David

Steve said...

Hi Dave,

I'm afraid I've been taking your post of topic, but just a few more comment and then I'll try to back off.

They are 'orthodox' because the two great catholic/orthodox churches (RCC and EO) have deemed them as such.

This reasoning could get circular real fast...

In my posts on the "Monarchy of God the Father", I have pointed to a few possible reasons why.

I'll have to go back and read that. Perhaps the constant qualification of terms that the monarchial emphasis seems to entail led to a shift in emphasis to consubstantiality/co-equality...just as a matter of practicality.

That fontal nature means that God the Father owes is being/existence to nothing else—i.e. He is absolute existence—but the Son and the Holy Spirit owe their being/existence to the Father.

Here is an example of that necessary qualification. Have the Son and Holy Spirit ever not existed? Does procession in the uncreated order necessitate any potency of nature in that which proceeds?

This is where gets a bit complicated; though I believe that the Son and HS are divine—i.e. God from God, Light from Light—they lack the fontal nature of the Father. This belief of mine (and the early Church Fathers) makes me a subordinationist (though certainly NOT in an Arian sense).

I thought it got complicated a long time ago :) If you can call the Son God and the Holy Spirit God, yet not of the same nature then I think we have to add polytheist to the subordinationist claim. If not, could you explain how that is avoided?

Pax

Steve said...

Hi again Dave,

I came across the following quote on Fr. Kimel's blog by Fr. Behr in a post on St Basil.

“We do not know what God is in his essence, what kind of being he is, because ultimately he is not a kind of being at all,” Behr explains (II:297). And because God is not a kind of being, he does not belong to “a genus or class of which the three persons are members, parallel with one another” (II:298).

Would you consider this an orthodox EO view?

徐马可 said...

Steve,

A quick thought on your comment today.

You wrote:" I'll have to go back and read that. Perhaps the constant qualification of terms that the monarchial emphasis seems to entail led to a shift in emphasis to consubstantiality/co-equality...just as a matter of practicality. "

1. Consubstantiality does not equal co-equality, co-equality speaking properly is at the level of person, while consubstantiality speaking properly is at the level of essence.
a. If you take consubstantiality to be one numeric essence as the Latin understood it, then co-equality means in this context, the Father and the Son are one and the same being, or essence.
b. If you take consubstantiality to be in some generic sense, as the original Nicene Creed has it, then you may say the Son's essence is the same as the Father's essence, thus co-equal, but this is not what we usually mean by the word "co-equal".

2. Most importantly, in my opinion, monarchy of the Father does not shift the emphasis of consubstantiality, on the contrary, monarchy of the Father guarantees a true consubstantiality, by which I mean, the confession of consubstantiality (whatever it means), is not the starting point of our confession, we start by confessing the Monarchy of the Father, by confessing Him as the One God, from this Monarchy we then confess the consubstantiality. If you turn the whole sequence and start from consubstantiality first, you have changed the One God from the Father to the essence, thus subordinate "person" to the essence. This is what we have done in the West, be it Roman Catholic, Reformed, Baptist, Fundamentalist, or Dallas Dispensationalist, all alike.

3. I agree with Fr. Behr on the quotation you provided, I think the essence of God is not revealed in the Scripture, and we cannot in anyway find out, and to say God means a genus or class with three members is nothing but tritheism which is foreign to the Scripture. Now, since I think the essence of God cannot be fully known since not revealed, I tend to understand "consubstantiality" in its original way as Eusibius had it, that it simply means the Son is from the Father, and the relationship of Father and Son is essential not dialectical like Augustine.

Regards,

Mark

Jnorm said...

Steve,

Yes, it's an early Christian view, as well as an Orthodox Christian view. We just developed it even more (made it more sophisticated).

All it means is that we can't know God in His Essence(and so we can't say anything about it), but we can know Him in His Energies (We can talk about what He revealed). It's an Ad Intra vs Ad Extra distinction. Or an Essence vs Energies distinction.

And it's not just us with an understanding like this. The jews developed their own Essence vs Energies distinction (somewhat different from ours in certain ways) as well. As can be seen here:

http://orthodox-apologetics.blogspot.com/2013/03/some-interesting-things-about-essence.html

quote:
" "The Jewish theology of revelation is very similar to that of Eastern Orthodoxy. In both, the nature is unknown but God is known by his energies. Moses Maimonides (1135-1204) summarizes the knowledge that can be had of God:


That first and greatest of all thinkers, out teacher Moses, of blessed memory, made two requests and both his requests were granted. His first request was when he asked God to let him know His essence and nature; the second, which was the first in point of time, was when he asked Him to let him know His attributes. God's reply was to promise that He would let him know all His attributes, telling him at the same time that they were His actions. Thereby He told him that His essence could not be apprehended in itself. But also pointed out to him a starting point from which he could set out to apprehend as much of Him as man can apprehend. And indeed Moses apprehended more than anyone ever did before him or after him..29

In imitating God, the Jew imitates the divine energies and so becomes like God in behaving as God does. As Moses Maimonides epitomizes his tradition:"



The book from where the quote came can be found here:

Deification in the Eastern Orthodox Tradition: A Biblical Perspective (Gorgias Eastern Christian Studies)


Jnorm said...

Someone on here said that the Early Church fathers (before the 4th century) believed that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all had different essences?

No they did not! The one concept you will see over and over and over is the idea that they are undivided. And so it's One Undivided Essence and that Essence is the Essence of the Father! It is His Essence!

Both the Son and the Holy Spirit share the Father's Essence!

The Early Church were not polytheists!

Jnorm said...

The Unity of God

quote:
""Thus God as person - as the hypostasis of the Father - makes the one divine substance to be that which it is: the one God. This point is absolutely crucial. For it is precisely with this point that the new philosophical position of the Cappadocian Fathers, and of St. Basil in particular, is directly connected. That is to say, the substance never exists in a "naked" state, that is, without hypostasis, without "a mode of existence." And the one divine substance is consequently the being of God only because it has these three modes of existence, which it owes not to the substance but to one person, the Father. Outside the Trinity there is no God, that is, no divine substance, because the ontological "principle" of God is the Father. The personal existence of God (the Father) constitutes His substance, makes it hypostases. The being of God is identified with the person.""


Jnorm said...

Mark,

Even in the area of "generic" Consubstantiality you have the idea of "one substance". I say this because both Pre and Post Nicea you had the concept of them being united and undivided.

All generic unity means in the context of Nicea is that they started their Triadoloy with the Persons and not with the Essence.

Most of the people at Nicea were moderate Origenists, and they most certainly didn't believe in three divided ,separated , or independent essences. They just didn't.

You can read the works of Saint Athanasius (writing for his bishop which was Alexander of Alexandria) in 324 A.D.

This was one year before Nicea, and you will see the concept of an undivided Essence.

You will also see this in the works of Saint Athanasius even after 325 A.D. (after Nicea)

The Theology of the Nicene creed of 325 A.D. is that of Saint Athanasius. And so his works is thee authority if one really wants to understand that council.

The western Church in the 3rd, and 4th century most definitely believed in an undivided Essence. They just did!

Steve said...

Hi Jnorm,

Like I mentioned a few posts back, I don't want to continue to take David's post further off topic. With that said I just wanted to point out that if you read all my earlier comments on this thread you will see why I asked David about the Fr. Behr quote.

徐马可 said...

Jnorm,

Thanks for your clarification, whatever difference in philosophy we may have. I think your position is much closer to mine than the Reformed scholastic position.

I have great respect toward EO after some good study. I favor many things taught by your church.

Regards,

Mark

Justin said...

Jnorm,

I would like to respond to your comments, since I believe they were addressed to me:

"Someone on here said that the Early Church fathers (before the 4th century) believed that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all had different essences?

No they did not! The one concept you will see over and over and over is the idea that they are undivided. And so it's One Undivided Essence and that Essence is the Essence of the Father! It is His Essence!

Both the Son and the Holy Spirit share the Father's Essence!

The Early Church were not polytheists!"

>> Three essences do not make polytheism in Early Church thought. Polyarchy would entail polytheism. I know you know this because that is the argument used by the Eastern church in their rejection of the filioque (if the Son is a source (arche), you have two Gods).

Now, the church stated there is one undivided Godhead in which the Father is the sole source. But where does that entail that each person does not have their own individual essence (which is what persons have in order to be a person)? Can you show me an early church source that supports your claim?

Take the definition of person by boethius: "an individual substance of a rational or intelligent nature,- rationalis naturae individua substantia." This would entail three individual substances in order for their to be three Hypostasis in the Trinity. I was not saying that there are Three Universal natures in the Godhead, but rather three particular natures in the Godhead.


Joseph Bingham, portions from his sermon on the Trinity:

The Fathers, speaking consistently with themselves, and agreeably to their definition of the term person, say that in the same sense that there are three persons, and every one of those an individual substance, in that sense there are three distinct substances too, that is, three minds or spirits, in the unity of the Godhead. Yet in another sense they safely say, without a contradiction, that there is but one unidivided substance in the Godhead, viz. by virtue of a community of nature, and inseparable union; as well as three individual substances by virtue of their real distinction."

"The Fathers tell us, three infinite and eternal beings, still remaining distinct without confusion, are in a more exquisite manner one: because their union is absolutely natural, nececssary, and eternal; they are as nececssarily three as one, and as necessarily one {by union} as three [by distinction, without separation or division]. And this notion of unity in trinity, given us by Antiquity, is, I concieve a very rational and intelligible account of the Unity of the Divine Nature in a Trinity of Persons: for by this we need neither confound the persons nor divide the substance."

...The primitive Fathers; who took not nature for a single individual substance, but for a common nature or substance that might be contained without division in many particular individuals"


"The Fathers expressly say, that there are three substances in the Trinity, taking them for individual substances agreeing in one common nature; and they tell us further, that to say there is but one absolutely single substance in that sense, is heresy, and particularily the heresy of Sabellius {There is nothing more certain than that the Greeks by hypostasis always mean substance, and not mere modes or qualities: sometimes it signifies substance or nature in general, the same with the known senses of ousia and essentia; but more commonly it is used by them for a particular substance or individual: and yet in this sense, it is well known they always said there were three hypostases against Sabellius, i.e. three distinct individual substances of the same common nature."

Justin said...

Jnorm,

I just realized you used the term "essence," whereas I used being. Perhaps I am just confused by your meaning. I think the term substance is clearer, since you can have a universal and a particular.

I would also like to reiterate what Mark said about respecting the EO contributio to Christianity.

David Waltz said...

Hello again Steve,

Yesterday, you posted:

==I'm afraid I've been taking your post of topic, but just a few more comment and then I'll try to back off.==

Me: I think your comments and questions are germane, so 'no worries' on my part.

==They are 'orthodox' because the two great catholic/orthodox churches (RCC and EO) have deemed them as such.

This reasoning could get circular real fast...==

Me: Because the RCC and EO churches are not only the largest, but also the oldest of the denominations of Christendom, they have the right to decide who their orthodox representatives are.

== That fontal nature means that God the Father owes is being/existence to nothing else—i.e. He is absolute existence—but the Son and the Holy Spirit owe their being/existence to the Father.

Here is an example of that necessary qualification. Have the Son and Holy Spirit ever not existed?==

Me: In relation to time, they both assisted the Father in creating time itself, so they are eternal.

==Does procession in the uncreated order necessitate any potency of nature in that which proceeds?==

Me: Not understanding your question. What do you mean by "potency of nature" ???

This is where gets a bit complicated; though I believe that the Son and HS are divine—i.e. God from God, Light from Light—they lack the fontal nature of the Father. This belief of mine (and the early Church Fathers) makes me a subordinationist (though certainly NOT in an Arian sense).

==I thought it got complicated a long time ago :) If you can call the Son God and the Holy Spirit God, yet not of the same nature then I think we have to add polytheist to the subordinationist claim. If not, could you explain how that is avoided?==

Me: The Son and HS are 'God from God' and 'Light from Light'—'God' and 'Light' being used to describe 'nature' (just as human/man is used to describe the nature you and I share, and the nature the Son of God took via his incarnation)—but they are not "the one God", who is the Father alone. Because they received their divinity from the Father, an act of derivation is involved; as such, the charge of subordinationism stands, but not polytheism. I maintain that if one truly believes in the original Creed of Nicaea (325), then one is a subordinationist. Note the following from an esteemed Protestant scholar:

>>The dogma of the Trinity emerged in the church only through a continuing struggle with heresy…

Subordinationism posed a more subtle danger to the Christian faith in view of a palpable subordinationist motif in the New Testament. Subordinationism holds that Christ was subordinate and inferior to God. The Father was the source of the Son and the Spirit. This was an attempt to preserve the monarchy within the Trinity. The apologists were generally subordinatinist, since they considered the Godhead a triad rather than a Trinity, with the Son and Spirit totally subordinate to the Father. For Tertullian both Son and Spirit derive from the Father by emanation and thus are subordinate to him.

The most influential subordinationist in the early church was Origen…

Subordinationism and orthodoxy also coexisted in Athanasius and Novatian…

It is misleading to portray the Father as the “source” of the Son, though this language was used by the early church fathers and is still prevalent in Catholic and Orthodox circles. (Donald G. Bloesch, God The Almighty, pp. 171, 173, 174.)>>


Grace and peace,

David

Steve said...

Not understanding your question. What do you mean by "potency of nature" ???

Let me try it this way...Can procession in the uncreated order be considered in terms of cause and effect?

Justin,
I would just point to the summa.I.29 for a discussion on person with respect to the Trinity. This would most closely reflect my view, as I believe it is most consistent with what must necessarily be true of God's nature while not contradicting any dogmatic constitution regarding the Trinity.

However, I also believe that a decent background in A-T metaphysics may be necessary to see the force of these arguments...but that cannot be provided here.

Best,
Steve

David Waltz said...

Hi Steve,

Forgive my somewhat tardy response, but I had to drive to Vancouver today to check in with my oral surgeon concerning the bone-graft he did 7 weeks ago (good news, healing very quickly, will be able to put in the implant 8 months early !).

Yesterday, you posted:

==Let me try it this way...Can procession in the uncreated order be considered in terms of cause and effect?==

Me: Thanks much for the clarification—I would say yes, and with that said, why would one say no ???


Grace and peace,

David

P.S. Received some very bad news yesterday; my wife's mom (87 plus years) is gravely ill and may have only days left on this Earth (last rites were given yesterday), so we are heading down to SoCal tomorrow. Don't know when I will be able to check back in...prayers will be greatly appreciated.

Steve said...

Thanks much for the clarification—I would say yes, and with that said, why would one say no ???

Because you would be introducing contingency into the uncreated order which doesn't make sense from a metaphysical standpoint.

I will definitely be praying for your mother-in-law and family.

pax christi,
Steve

TOm said...

Hello Rory,
I am accustomed to wincing when I see “a different Jesus,” or a different God. I do not expect that I should read what you wrote in a wince-worthy way so I will try to back away from that type of thinking, some. But...
I love the one God who Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob loved. The Father who sent the Son to die for my sins. The Son who died on the Cross. The Spirit who testifies to me of the truthfulness of the gospel.
I also love myself, run from God, hurt my neighbor, and generally reject God on occasion; but I repent regularly.

I find the idea that God is immutable and impassible such that he is unaffected by my loving Him or rejecting Him or repenting and returning difficult at best and perhaps ugly. If God is immutable and impassible and He told me so, I cannot fathom I would cease to love Him in the imperfect way I currently do, but I would not understand. Theoretically it would not change the fact that He atoned for my sins; or that He rescued me when I didn’t deserve it; or that He first loved me. All it would do is confuse me more than I am confused (which is plenty).

Concerning the importance of lack of importance of theology, I very much like Athanasius saying that the semi-Arians are his brothers in Christ. I am not sure the full Arians should have been rejected as they were. Surely the Arians loved God as best they knew how.

I do however agree with you that Charity is most important. I can also acknowledge I can find times when my church didn’t recognize this truth at the expense of defining beliefs with greater precision.
Charity, TOm

TOm said...

Hello David,
You said:
That is pretty close to my view too; but, I would add that during this same period (i.e. 325-451) there were hundreds of ahomoian, homoian, and homoiousion bishops who had received the same ordination, and held their own councils—some of which were considerably larger than any of the first 4 ecumenical councils.


Ok, but how does the divergent witness from 325-451 help us to decide truth (assuming theological truth is important). Surely the Bible has been interpreted in many different ways and there seems to be little reason to believe that this will change anytime soon. So the Bible will not bring us to a oneness theologically. If instead of using the Bible alone you use the witness from 100-451 of folks who embrace Christ as their savior, I think the diversity of opinions is radically increased. I adopt the view that authority is important, but theology is less so important. But for those who believe “orthodoxy” is very important how can one get orthodoxy without embracing an authority that wades through the divergent voices in the church from 100-451 or from 325-451.
I am not sure following the authority works if the authority CHANGES the theology radically as many suggest it has / does while simultaneously claiming that they are not changing the theology, but I do not see a better path to theological certainty than following the authority.

You asked that I elaborate upon this statement I made, “In addition to this as these folks perfectly (in the eyes of most Christians) defined the Cannon and with great correctness (in the eyes of many Christians) defined doctrines they also defined authority as being ordained in a line of valid bishops tracing back to an apostle.”
I am sure you know that history better than I do, but as I understand it, folks like Irenaeus and Eusebius were pointing to bishop lists as a method to determine where truth was. Some of this can be dismissed in that they were only trying to show that their witness was more ancient than the witness of their opposition (not that their witness was an authority because of ordination). But, during this time the idea that Bishops as the ordained leaders (and successors of apostles) surely emerged.
Perhaps I am wrong about this, but this is what I was saying: As they were deciding theological controversies perfectly, they were also defining authority in a way that most protestants reject. They approached perfect in their theological decisions while simultaneously completely failing to define the importance “the church” places or should place on ordained Bishops.

That is at least what I meant.
Charity, TOm

P.S. I hope you, your wife and her mother are doing well. I will pray for you all.

David Waltz said...

Hi Tom,

Thanks much for taking to time to comment. Yesterday, you posted:

==Ok, but how does the divergent witness from 325-451 help us to decide truth (assuming theological truth is important).==

Me: If one is Catholic/Orthodox, I suppose you could point out that the bishoprics eventually eradicated all the ahomoian, homoian, and homoiousian bishops.

==Surely the Bible has been interpreted in many different ways and there seems to be little reason to believe that this will change anytime soon. So the Bible will not bring us to a oneness theologically.==

Me: I think history emphatically affirms the above.

==If instead of using the Bible alone you use the witness from 100-451 of folks who embrace Christ as their savior, I think the diversity of opinions is radically increased.==

Me: Not sure I understand what you are saying. Just prior, you seem to be arguing against sola scriptura; but the above, seems to soften that take.

==I adopt the view that authority is important, but theology is less so important. But for those who believe “orthodoxy” is very important how can one get orthodoxy without embracing an authority that wades through the divergent voices in the church from 100-451 or from 325-451.==

Me: Until the stabilization of the bishoprics, the issue of authority was not 'clear'. Some of the major bishoprics had 3 competing bishops (many had 2); and each with loyal supporters.

==I am not sure following the authority works if the authority CHANGES the theology radically as many suggest it has / does while simultaneously claiming that they are not changing the theology, but I do not see a better path to theological certainty than following the authority.==

Me: Good points. Theories of development attempt to harmonize those "CHANGES". Some are more successful than others, but I personally have yet to find a theory of DD that adequately deals with all the difficulties.

==I am sure you know that history better than I do, but as I understand it, folks like Irenaeus and Eusebius were pointing to bishop lists as a method to determine where truth was. Some of this can be dismissed in that they were only trying to show that their witness was more ancient than the witness of their opposition (not that their witness was an authority because of ordination). But, during this time the idea that Bishops as the ordained leaders (and successors of apostles) surely emerged.==

Me: I personally believe that the theory of apostolic succession through ordained bishops it pretty solid (but not without difficulties).

==Perhaps I am wrong about this, but this is what I was saying: As they were deciding theological controversies perfectly, they were also defining authority in a way that most protestants reject. They approached perfect in their theological decisions while simultaneously completely failing to define the importance “the church” places or should place on ordained Bishops.==

Me: OK, now I understand what you were/are attempting to convey. Thanks for the clarifications.

As for situation down here in SoCal, my wife's mom is still hanging on. Her will/body sure seems to be much stronger than the doctors and nurses thought it was; she may be with us for up to 5 more days. But watching somebody slowly die is painful. Last November, when we last saw her, she seemed quite healthy, with years to go, so this sudden turn just adds to the emotional pain...


Grace and peace,

David

Rory said...

Hey Dave...

All of my condolences and prayers to V and you. My dad lingered like that.

On a note that seems frivolous in light of such circumstances, I know you will have some interest in a prospective race between Usain Bolt and Mo Farah at 600 meters!

Check it out when you have a moment for something relatively unimportant. When you get back I'll love to hear your thoughts on sprinter vs. distance.

http://www.runnersworld.com/elite-runners/will-usain-bolt-race-mo-farah

Until then,

God be with you.

Your friend,

Rory

David Waltz said...

Hi Rory,

Thanks much for your prayers. Finally back home. V's mom passed Wednesday evening; she seemed to have been in no pain. Three of V's siblings were there, and we were all able to help each other through the event.

It was a long drive home. NoCal and SoOre was not pleasant due to wildfires. The smoke was very dense for a good 100 plus miles. Anyway, so glad to be back at the beach !!!

As for a Bolt/Farah race, I read that a distance between 600-800 meters was suggested. I think Bolt would have a slight advantage at 600m, but would give Farah the nod at 800 meters. Twenty years ago, I would have loved to have raced Farah at 400 meters...

God bless,

David

Rory said...

Ahhh, you want Fareh short, and Bolt long?

Very wise my friend. But if there was a way to make everybody almost 60 years old, I'd bet on you short or long against either. Hehe.

I accidentally called today. It qwas kind of funny. V probably told you. We have this new guy at work who I knew was in Chehalis today. There was this wreck on I-5 that had southbound backed up from Woodland to Kalama. All lanes closed. I was heading north to the plant and saw the whole mess. I don't really like this guy but usually its kind of courtesy to call your fellows and give them a heads up. In this case so he can cut across the bridge in Longview maybe and go around. But I didn't think I had his number in my phone. I was hoping it wasn't to be honest. But I looked anyway and there it was. Dave. So I did my duty and called and this female voice answers. "Daaave?", I ask. The voice says, "This is "V....." Oh! Waltz! Of course. Anyway...Glad you're back.

Heh,

Rory

Rory said...

Washington beats Boise State? Like that?

Down year for Boise State or up year for UofW?

Dave, tell us what's on your mind, frivolous or not.

A Blessed Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost to all.

David Waltz said...

Hi Rory,

I watched the entire game. Huskies defense was very impressive. Thought Boise State's defensive secondary was weak, so it remains to be seen if UW can put up the same level of points against the top PAC 12 teams.

Should have a new thread up tomorrow, the Lord willing...


Grace and peace,

David

P.S. Have been enjoying the US Open !!!